How to choose the best home EV charger
If you're thinking of buying an electric or plug-in hybrid (PHEV) car, you need to think about where you’re going to charge it. Both electric cars and PHEVs need to be regularly charged using a cable to ensure their batteries have enough energy to deliver adequate driving range.
For those with a driveway, garage or any other form of off-street parking, the obvious solution is to charge at home. This is what the majority of electric-car owners currently do. And while the UK’s public charging network is growing at a rapid pace, experts think most ‘charging events’ will take place at driver’s homes in future.
So, how do you charge an electric car? A regular three-pin plug will draw a maximum charge of 3kW, which is too slow to fully charge most electric cars in a useful amount of time, even if left overnight. However, installing a wallbox charger at home will help you charge much quicker, making electric-car ownership considerably more viable.
Read on for an in-depth explanation of the different types of wallbox charger, details about the Government’s grant towards buying one, plus our guide to the best home chargers on the market right now.
What is a home wallbox charger?
A home wallbox charger is a unit that’s installed either in your garage or outside your house – whichever is nearer to where you park your car. This is connected to your home’s mains electricity; most of these devices will charge your car at a faster rate than can be achieved using a normal three-pin plug.
There are various other benefits: you don’t need to run an extension cord from your home, which could be unsafe; wallboxes are weatherproof, so they can be used in all conditions; some units are also ‘smart’ and can be controlled remotely with an app on your phone.
Different types of home wallbox chargers
There are dozens of different companies offering home wallbox chargers. The factors you’ll need to consider are price, ease of installation, charging speed, connector and cable type, compatibility with your home and even how the wallbox looks.
In 2014, the European Commission ruled that all public charging points should feature Type 2 connector compatibility. This is why new electric cars and PHEVs often feature Type 2 plugs and cables – and why most home wallbox chargers are also intended for vehicles with Type 2 cables.
You then choose whether you want a tethered or untethered wallbox. A tethered point means the wallbox comes with the charging cable attached, which plugs straight into your car. While some argue this isn’t as futureproof as a socketed wallbox, there's always the possibility of purchasing an adaptor later on.
An untethered wallbox comes with a standard plug, into which you have to run your own cable. These are often supplied with the car, but if not, can be bought from suppliers such as Chargemaster for around £150. However, the benefit is that if you swap cars or new charging technology comes along, the only thing you need to change is the cable.
The most basic home chargers typically start at 3 to 3.7kW, with more advanced units delivering 7kW and the priciest units achieving as much as 22kW. Naturally, the price of the chargers goes up as you move through the power bands.
A 3.7kW wallbox will fully charge the 40kWh battery in a standard Nissan Leaf in around 13 hours – giving you 168 miles of range overnight – while a 7kW system will do so in less than six hours. A 22kW charger would take less than two hours.
Think about your daily mileage and driving requirements. If you drive only a limited amount each day, bringing the car back with a healthy amount of battery remaining, you perhaps only need a 3.6kW charger to slowly recharge the vehicle overnight.
If you do a lot of driving, often arriving home with little charge left, and you need to use your car regularly throughout the week and at weekends, then a faster charger may be a better option.
It’s worth noting that the maximum charging speed your house can deliver depends on the type of electricity supply it receives: most UK households have what’s known as a ‘single-phase’ connection, while larger buildings and factories tend to have more powerful ‘three-phase’ connections.
Consult an electrician to advise on what to expect from your home, in case you end up buying a high-power wallbox that you realise you can't make full use of.
Some wallboxes qualify for the Office for Low Emissions Vehicles Electric Vehicle Homecharging Scheme (OLEV EVHS). The grant is a Government subsidy to reduce the cost of home wallbox installation, covering up to 75% of the purchase price, with a maximum contribution of £350.
To be eligible for the OLEV grant, you need to meet the following points:
You have dedicated off-street parking
Your plug-in vehicle was purchased after 1 October 2016
You have not already claimed the grant for your vehicle
By claiming the grant, you're not exceeding the limit of two OLEV-funded charge points per house
From July 2019, the criteria for the grant was updated to insist that eligible chargers must be ‘smart’: this means being able to connect to the internet to be operated remotely – using a smartphone, for instance – so that charging times can be scheduled.
This is useful for two reasons: firstly, it can help prevent peaks in electricity demand, which could put a strain on local infrastructure, and secondly it'll help you charge your electric vehicle when demand is lowest (usually overnight), saving you money.
How long does it take to install a wallbox?
Most charging-point providers will supply and install the home wallbox within a week. Many providers include the installation cost in the purchase price, with the installation done by a qualified technician.
However, this isn’t always the case. Certain special circumstances may mean you’ll be charged extra for the installation, but this is unlikely. One company says that 90% of customers have their home wallbox installed free of charge.
How to choose the best home EV charger
Taking all of the above into account, it’s time to decide which kind of home charger is right for you. It’s worth shopping around to make sure you get the best deal
To get you started, here are a handful of the best home charger manufacturers in the business.
Pod Point has been in operation for around 10 years, and in that time has sold tens of thousands of charging points across the UK.
It offers a round home charger that measures 35cm in diameter and is 15cm deep, with three different forms delivering 3.7, 7 and 22kW of power. All versions of Pod Point’s product can connect to wi-fi, enabling over-the-air software updates and smartphone connectivity.
Prices for the 3.6kW charger start from less than £300, and while the cost of installation is included, more complex jobs may incur an additional fee.
EO Charging was founded in 2015, and since then has sold more than 10,000 chargers in over 30 countries worldwide. It makes a handful of chargers capable of providing 3.6, 7, 11 and 22kW power, with options for tethered and untethered connections.
One of its products – the EO Mini – is claimed to be ‘the smallest fast charger on the market’ (it measures 17.5x12.5x9.5cm), meaning it'll be of interest to buyers who don’t want a large unit attracting attention on their driveway. Available colour options include black, white, grey or blue, although not all products receive this full range.
Rolec EV makes a wide range of home chargers, each designed to suit customers with subtly different needs. For example, its WallPod:EV Ready device contains just a standard, three-pin socket, but the company says it's easy to upgrade to a fast charger, making it ideal for divers who might not be fully on board with the idea of going electric just yet.
Rolec EV’s main product is the WallPod:EV HomeSmart. The firm claims that its starting price of £295 makes it the cheapest home charger eligible for the OLEV grant. The unit contains a SIM card, so users can operate it remotely using the ev.energy app, which is free to download.
BP Chargemaster is probably better known for running the public Polar Plus charging network, but it has solutions for private users, too. Like Pod Point, it has installed tens of thousands of chargers across the country.
Its home charger isn’t the most elegant-looking thing, with a white exterior that measures 35cm across at its widest point. Some versions come with a lock on the outside, meaning you can only use the unit if you have the key: this will prevent the unlikely scenario of someone parking on your driveway and helping themselves to your electricity.
The BP Chargemaster charger offers between 3.6 and 22kW of power, although the faster versions require three-phase electricity supply, which most UK homes don’t have. Upgrading your connection is possible, but expensive.